A Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)-led project has received a grant to help develop a smartphone app and digital tool to help children and adolescents as they recover from cancer.
The project is one of three announced by Cancer Council Victoria. The grants, totalling $1.5 million, are funded by the Cancer Council together with the Victorian Government through the Victorian Cancer Agency.
MCRI Associate Professor McCarthy will develop a smartphone app and online platform to engage children and adolescents who have been treated for childhood cancer, and their families, as they recover.
“Five-year survival rates in paediatric cancer now exceed 80 per cent,” Associate Professor McCarthy said. “Despite improved survival outcomes, children and adolescents treated for cancer are at risk of developing long-term physical and psychological difficulties related to their disease or treatment.”
Referred to as ‘late effects’, these may emerge over months and years after their treatment ends. But young people and their families currently receive little information and guidance about these late effects.
“End-of-treatment care tends to be fragmented and significant numbers of patients do not engage in long-term follow-up care,” she said. “In addition, there are few clinical trials targeted at improving late effects and quality of life for these patients.”
Associate Professor McCarthy said the development of a digital health solution, called the Digital Survivorship Companion (DiSC), would address the unmet need for information to be provided to patients and their families at the end of treatment, including treatment history and health-related treatment impacts.
“The DiSC will be introduced to young survivors and families across Victoria at the end of active treatment, a time when direct contact with their paediatric oncology healthcare providers is substantially reduced but they do not yet meet criteria for survivorship programs,” she said.
Associate Professor McCarthy said the DiSC app would provide a virtual platform for healthcare providers to engage and interact with young cancer survivors and would be a significant enabler for clinical trial recruitment, monitoring and delivery of supportive care and survivorship interventions.